Response to USA Today’s ‘Rigged’ (Submitted as a Guest Editorial to USA Today)
In response to your USA Today Network Investigation – “Rigged” June 16, 2017
I have spent 35 years in the Heavy-Duty Trucking Industry, and found your report interesting, yet possibly misleading. I have had the unique pleasure to work closely with 50-60 Truckload Carriers in their Strategic Planning and Best Practices efforts to provide a better life for their drivers and the health of their businesses. My comments are based on facts that were not divulged in your investigation, and some alternative opinions from the Well-Run majority of the Trucking Business!
Your investigation has obviously exposed the underbelly of a segment of the Trucking Industry. You noted a scope of Drivers that were in Southern California, and interviewing 300 drivers. While their plight as described seems unfair, the connection to the Trucking Business couldn’t be further from the truth. The Trucking Business in America has 3.5 Million Truck Drivers, is a Nationwide Business, moving 10.5 Billion Tons of freight annually or 70% of all freight tonnage in the US.
Your portrayal of the Truck Driver as “indentured servant” was an exaggeration, and an insult to the Professional Truck Driving Community. Many of our best Trucking Companies offer some form of Lease Purchase Program for Drivers who would like to own their own business. Your investigation portrayed the Lease/Purchase Program as a no-win situation for the Driver – not with the Carriers I know. The Good Carriers structure their program so that any person who wants to build their own business, and loves the Truck Driving Profession can get started. Where in America is the Dream of starting with nothing, working hard, and building your business more evident. The proof is in the results, most of the successful Truckload Carriers today started their family business with one truck and a Dream!
The reporting on extended hours of working is also not aligned with the Trucking Business. Most of the Carriers that I work with pay strict attention to the Federal Hours mandated, and insure their compliance by investing in monitoring devices that the authorities can check at any time. However, the Companies that you exposed make the competitive landscape of Trucking very challenging. When the legitimate Carriers must compete against the Companies that you exposed, the legitimate Carriers lose some of their business to the lowest priced provider, and the legitimate Driver loses miles. When the Driver loses miles they all suffer.
Last, but not least, the identification of “America’s most beloved retailers, from Costco to Target to Home Depot”, and their role they play in this Port Trucker atrocity is very interesting. There are more than 575,000 For-Hire Trucking companies in the US, and running approximately 3.5 Million Class 8 tractors. Thus, the ability for a Volume Shipper to attain a low price in transportation for their goods is very accessible. Their hands-off approach to your inquiries spoke volumes as to their culpability to the problem of many Truckers that may be running illegal in the US. The ability for a Fortune 500 company to hire a separate Logistics company to attain a “Low Price at any Cost” needs to be addressed. Their view that they are removed from the transaction and the byproducts of that transaction, needs to change. Quality Carriers care about their Drivers and their interaction with the Passenger Driving Community, and they cannot compete on low price against the Trucking Companies you highlighted in your Investigation.
There are more than 7 Million people employed in the Trucking Industry, not including the self-employed Independent Contractors out there. This industry is predominantly Family Type of Organization, moving approximately $725 Billion in Revenues annually. These Hard-Working folks take “NASA type risks, for Super Market returns”, they passionately care about this business, and needed a contrarian voice to your “Rigged” Investigative report.